MANTECA — Most nights Florence Kugelman likes to walk back to her apartment and read after dinner, but she’s taking tonight’s walk as an evacuee — 100 miles away from what she left behind in a mad rush to get out of Marysville.
What did she do first when the order was issued?
“Go back and figure out what to take,” the 92-year-old said, laughing as she remembered the chaos.
Kugelman, like almost 200,000 others, raced to get out of the way of what emergency personnel were concerned could flood her hometown as a result of growing damage to the two spillways serving the Oroville Dam.
While each family had to fend for themselves in the evacuation, the welfare of Kugelman and 63 other seniors was the responsibility of Prestige Senior Living of Marysville.
Half went home with their relatives in the frantic hour everyone was told to get out on Sunday.
The rest had to be moved.
“They had actually told us that they did not think we would have to evacuate at all. And that was told to us as late as Friday,” said Aleta Walker, regional executive director for Prestige.
Filling empty apartments and doubling up in common areas, Prestige found room for their assisted living clients at a sister facility in Manteca, but getting there was a challenge.
The most vulnerable memory-care clients took what became a five-hour trip in campus buses.
Others were driven south in personal cars volunteered by staff.
“No one knew if anyone really was going to be safe and yet they left their families to come and help our seniors,” said Walker.
About 10 staff members haven’t been home, haven’t stopped helping since providing those rides.
Residents like Kugelman were well aware why they were on the move, a special approach had to be taken with those dealing with dementia.
“Answer their questions as simply and honestly as you can and give lots and lots of reassurance,” Walker said.
Kugelman appreciates the precautions still keeping her in Manteca, but for her, this adventure can be over at any moment.
“I have to say just I’m very comfortable here…but I’d rather go home,” said Kugelman.
Though the mandatory evacuation orders have been downgraded in the potential danger zone near the spillways, all relocated Prestige clients remain evacuated.
Seniors staying at Prestige Oroville found extra space and security at Prestige Chico.
Walker says with the worst part of upcoming storms expected to hit Monday and Tuesday, they don’t want to act hastily and then have to move residents a second time.